NASA announced yesterday that it was calling on SpaceX to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2017.]
According to Gwynne Shotwell, president and CEO of SpaceX:
When Crew Dragon takes NASA astronauts to the space station in 2017, they will be riding in one of the safest, most reliable spacecraft ever flown. We’re honored to be developing this capability for NASA and our country.
The move follows an earlier announcement in May that Boeing would be the first to deliver astronauts to the ISS, although this may now be in doubt as NASA noted, “determination of which company will fly its mission to the station first will be made at a later time.”
SpaceX is already flying cargo missions to the ISS but the announcement today will see the California-based company carrying a 220 pound cargo payload, and four NASA astronauts.
The move to fund commercial operations by the federal government couldn’t have come at a better time.
NASA has been increasingly reliant on the Russian space program in recent years after shuttering its own space shuttle program in 2011. This has drawn criticism from both NASA and the Russian government, even leading Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin to suggest the US use a “trampoline” to make its way into space for future missions after the US imposed sanctions on Russia for its actions in Ukraine.
The future of spaceflight, it appears, might just rest in the hands of commercial operations like SpaceX and Boeing.